JOE BIDDLE: Titans keep fans twisting in the wind

JOE BIDDLE: Titans keep fans twisting in the wind (Image 1)

Just when you think you have the Titans figured out, they play with your emotions. They make you go to work most Mondays twitching and talking crazy.

Dispatched to the left coast to play the Oakland Raiders Sunday, the Titans were basically on their own to figure out which direction they would choose to follow.

The Titans entered the game having lost five of their last six games. Both teams were 4-6, but Oakland's Black Hole has been known to make visitors disappear.

The Titans pulled off a 23-19 win, which was much needed. But get this. Today they are in a six-way tie for the sixth and final AFC Wild Card playoff spot. There are five weeks left, so it's up to them to make it happen.

“We knew going in, in our mind it was a playoff game. We couldn't afford to drop to 4-7,'' Titans Coach Mike Munchak said. “We have to run the table, win five more or four. This was big for a lot of reasons for us.''

The Titans have been searching for playmakers, searching for an identity. In this game at least, they found playmakers in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receivers Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright.
Wright has shown he is capable of making big plays at key times. Hunter is the Tennessee rookie whose upside is enormous once he learns the nuances of being an NFL wide receiver.

Fitzpatrick is the new kid on the block, picked up earlier this season to replace the injured Jake Locker. He has been adjusting to a new system and his receivers. Sunday was Fitzpatrick's coming out party this day's difference maker for the Titans.

“Fitzpatrick did a good job buying time in the pocket. He feels this is his offense now,'' Munchak said.

The Harvard grad finished 30 of 42 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Hunter had six grabs for 109 yards, an 18.2 yard per catch average. Wright also had six receptions for 103 yards, a 17.2 yard per catch averages. Those stats are keepers.

“It's frustrating, especially when you feel like you have a good idea of what they're going to try to do,'' said Raiders linebacker Nick Roach. “That's when you've got to give them credit for being able to execute because if they do something when you know it's coming and it still works – that on them executing and you not being able to stop them.''

Fitzpatrick hooked up with Hunter on a third down play that Hunter turned into a 54-yard touchdown reception. He dodged two Raiders defenders, cut to the right sideline and went in untouched. It gave the Titans a 13-9 lead, but the Titans would need more.

“We said this week they had talented wide receivers and they made plays,'' said Raiders Coach Dennis Allen. “When we got pressure on Fitzpatrick, he was able to elude the pressure. We knew coming in he was creative in the pocket and could extend plays with his feet.''

Oakland cut the lead to 13-12 on a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. When the Raiders took a 19-13 lead, it looked bleak for the men in two-tone blue.

Fitzpatrick has had six game winning drives in his NFL career. Make that seven. With just over six minutes left, he took 14 plays to complete the 80-yard game winning drive. He drove the Titans to a first and goal from the Raiders 10. There were 27 ticks left on the clock.

On third and goal from the 10, he hit Wright with a touchdown pass that had to be reviewed before being declared official. With only 10 seconds left and trailing 23-19, the Raiders had no chance.

So where do they go from here? At times the Titans played like any other middle of the pack NFL teams. There were 10 penalties for 100 yards. Unacceptable. More dropped passes — all the things that have prevented them from winning more games.

When they really needed to make something good happen Sunday, they were able to pull it off against Oakland.

Fitzpatrick talked about his team's confidence and believing after the game.

“Hopefully we can capture some of the momentum from this game. Each week is a new week, a new team,'' Fitzpatrick said. 

Can they use this game to keep themselves in the playoff picture, or do they revert to the unpredictable yo-yo team they have been for much of the season?

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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